A.J. Hoffman: Preseason fantasy football tiers
One key to winning in your fantasy drafts is not being married to the idea of having a particular player on your team. Unless you have the first pick, no player is guaranteed to you, and even then only one player is guaranteed. Rather than say “I want to build my team around this guy and this guy,” try to put each position group into tiers. If someone you hoped for isn’t available, this will have you a set backup plan at that position. You may also realize that you can take a tier 2 WR over a tier 4 RB, or if your first few tiers at a position start to disappear, you know you need to jump on someone you like with your next pick. Here are my positional tiers heading into draft day.
Unfortunately, I rarely see these types of players in my draft. I tend to wait on quarterback, and these are the names that people will jump on early. Don’t get discouraged. Just improve your team in other spots.
There should be a gap between these guys and the first tier, though I am still likely to be waiting a bit. Newton and Watson both have extremely high upside, thanks to their rushing abilities. Brees is almost always a lock for 600 pass attempts per season. Wentz’s health is the biggest question mark on him right now. If healthy, he is solid in this tier.
This is usually the tier I am shopping in. These guys should be going late enough that if you take someone with a question mark (Andrew Luck-health/Jimmy G-sustained success), you can afford to take another QB later on as insurance. All of these guys have their warts, but are all capable of putting up Tier 2 numbers if the cards fall right.
You are starting to take more risks here, but there is some solid upside, with either potential for big passing seasons from Goff/Carr or bonus rushing points from Mariota/Prescott.
Here we are talking about guys you are OK with if playing in a 2-QB league. Otherwise these are guys you don’t mind picking up while your top QB has a bye week.
Tyrod Taylor (maybe not after last night)
This tier is filled with guys who may or may not be starting Week 1, and may or may not hold onto their job through the season if they do. These are guys who should go undrafted unless you play in really deep leagues or have 2-QB rules.
This is a small tier, and if you play in a PPR format (most leagues play at least .5-PPR at this point), they are even further away from the competition.
Elliott would be tier 1 if he contributed more in the passing game, and Johnson could be tier 1 if he doesn’t show rust after missing basically all of 2017.
This is a “do you believe the hype” tier. Kamara was such a force last year, and won’t have Mark Ingram to compete for touches with early on, but can he repeat his magical 2017? Is Barkley going to take the NFL by storm and dominate from day 1? Fournette would be in tier 2 but is almost a nil in the passing game.
Most people seem to be higher on Gordon than I am. The workload will definitely be there, but I just don’t think he is a great player. Mixon and McCaffrey are high upside backs who should see an increase in touches from last season.
All of these platers have a high risk of being massively disappointing, although guys like Howard and McCoy could finish the season significantly better than I am projecting here. Drake and Collins will get first looks but will be looking over their shoulders all year.
This is the back end of your RB2 possibilities. Freeman, Penny, Jones and Johnson are all rookies who have a chance to take a bulk of the carries by season’s end. Henry could finish higher if Dion Lewis doesn’t cut into his carries too much. Coleman is one of the best #2s in the league.
Lots of running back by committee guys here. I wouldn’t feel good about drafting one as a starter, but as bye week filler and injury replacements these guys can contribute just fine. Peterson jumps out as the big name who could do considerably better if the workload is there for him.
Duke Johnson, jr.
Most of these guys are “cross your fingers” types. They are best drafted as a late round flier or a handcuff to your starter (i.e. Bernard for Joe Mixon).
Odell Beckham, Jr.
Brown is almost in a tier of his own. These are the WRs that are acceptable to draft in round 1.
You can still feel good if this is your WR1. Guys like Evans and Hill have QB questions but are unquestionably talented.
Here is the WR1/WR2 border group. If these are your #2 guys, you are extremely strong at the position. If they are your WR1, you will need a solid #2 in the next couple of rounds.
This is a big group, and encompasses most of the guys I consider solid WR2 players.
These are the other guys I would feel OK about as WR2. Goodwin has a chance to have a breakout season. Gordon is obviously capable of blowing up if he can stay away from blowing smoke.
This is essentially where my group of WR3 possibilities ends in an ideal world. If you have these guys as bench depth, your WR group is extremely strong.
Will Fuller V
This is my first level of bench WRs. These guys are also decent FLEX plays if you are weak at RB.
These guys are late round fliers. You can’t count on production every week out of these guys, but these guys are solid enough to fill out your roster with. Some guys, like Ridley and Ross are regarded as top level prospects and could end up as gold.
Yep. Just him. You can draft him as early as round 2 because he is a class ahead of the field in the weakest division, and can give you close to the same numbers as a RB or WR in the same range. Only question with him is health.
These two have closed the gap somewhat on Gronk, and if you are not looking to use a top three pick on a tight end, these guys can still get you solid productivity.
The drop from tier 2 to 3 is massive, and if you don’t get one of the top 3 guys, you would be wise to wait a while to grab your guy. Graham could have a strong year if Rodgers uses him in the red zone. Reed has the best potential of this tier, but the most health concerns.
These guys are less proven and More of an upside play. More high risk than tier 3, but could easily meet their production.
This isn’t ideal, but some of these guys could be serviceable if you don’t want to invest in a crapshoot position.